Monday, 14 December 2009

For your paying eyes only

Rupert Murdoch’s speech to the US Federal Trade Commission about the ‘Future of Journalism’, on 3 December, has accelerated an unavoidable development at a time where a the internet is maturing. 

The News Corporation Chairman told US regulators that ‘there is no such thing as a free news story’, and users will have to start paying for online news content - aggregation by websites and search engines should be considered as theft. Undoubtedly, once Murdoch has made the step to put his content behind a wall, many agencies and publishers will follow promptly. 

After all, the making of news is not free. How are all those journalists and reporters paid? It is hardly ‘fair trade’ when dozens of websites and search engines, such as Google and Yahoo!, enjoy the ‘free ride’ they currently have. They do not employ huge editorial teams, while they include News Corporation and other sources in their news pages - team Murdoch called it ‘Kleptomania’ - and they are making vast amounts of money with advertising, while they hardly have any labour costs. Quality journalism costs money and free content cannot keep the news industry going. Free is too expensive.

Strong terms of use

A recent decision of a US federal court in favour of Facebook (Facebook v Power Ventures) highlights the importance for popular websites of using strong terms of use to prevent copying. 

After Power Venture’s website (Power.com) and Facebook unsuccessfully tried to reach an agreement to share information, Power.com created its own Facebook account, agreed to Facebook’s terms of use and approached other users as an ‘ordinary user’. The fact that Power Ventures copied ‘entire pages’ (proprietary data) was considered to fall within the scope of Facebook’s terms of use, and was therefore deemed illegal. 

The judge, however, did not refer to protecting users’ information when this is not covered by terms of use, and when non-proprietary information is copied. If this is the case, and users have given their consent to the copier, the website in question cannot do much about it. Facebook already allows thousands of other companies limited access to the Facebook platform through its ‘Facebook Connect’ service, as it realises the vast amounts of information it manages attract many businesses. Currently, strong and explicit terms of use seem to be the most powerful tool to prevent information being copied legally.  

Agree to disagree

Poland approved this month a new law effectively banning online gambling in the Eastern European nation. In September 2009, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that countries can run state monopolies for online sports betting. 

Although ECJ judges recognised certain Member States have laws regarding online gambling that are not compatible with European principles, they ruled this ‘may be justified by overriding reasons relating to the public interest’, such as the high risks of fraud and other criminal activities. A month later, France announced it would give up its monopoly and proposed a law which will, on paper, open up its market to foreign gambling operators. 

At the same time, Denmark is putting forward new rules to regulate its online gambling market, as are Spain and Sweden - while Greece, Germany and Norway keep running their state betting monopolies. The ECJ ruling effectively gave Member States a tool to challenge the European Treaty, which guarantees an open market and freedom of services. The implementation of a European policy and single market for online betting across all 27 Member States seems therefore further away than ever. 

Friday, 4 December 2009

US move closer to end online gambling ban

The debate on online gambling heated up in the US, after a Congress hearing for two bills (HR2266 and HR2267), aimed at legalising online gambling, was scheduled for 3 December. HR2266 aims to delay by one year the entry into force of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). UIGEA was due to come into effect on 1 December, but its implementation has been delayed until June 2010.

HR2267, known as the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act (IGRCP), aims to legalise online poker games in the US. The bill would give the US Treasury Department the authority to establish regulations and license internet gambling operators. Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., President of the American Gaming Association (AGA), said, in a speech at the Global Gaming Expo in Last Vegas, last month, that online gambling could be a good alternative to generate new tax revenues.“Any Congressman or Senator who introduces a piece of legislation that is going to cost something will also have to show how they are going to pay for it”, said Fahrenkopf. “They will be looking around at a place to get additional revenue.”

A study by Pricewaterhouse Coopers demonstrated that taxes on regulated internet gambling could collect up to $63 billion in the next ten years. Senator Ron Wyden (Oregon) proposed an amendment to HR2267 in September, stating that tax revenue generated through the bill should be dedicated to health care reform. Wyden withdrew the proposal a week later, saying “he did not want to increase any controversy already facing the health care package”. Michael Waxman, spokesperson for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative, said: “The Senate Finance Committee should approve the resolution, finally putting an end a failed prohibition on internet gambling that leaves Americans unprotected and unlicensed offshore operators as the only beneficiary in a thriving marketplace”. 

The 1961 Wire Act was the basis for the US online gambling ban in the past. However, the US Court of Appeals confirmed in 2002 in ‘Thompson v. Mastercard’ a lower court’s ruling according to which casino games are legal. Although enforcement of the UIGEA has been delayed until June 2010, section eight of the Safe Port Act 2006 makes it illegal for banks and credit card companies to process payments on gambling websites, effectively banning online gambling.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Latest radio 1 show

My latest radio 1 show, from last Thursday, in Dutch; about Jordan, the jungle, Alex Reid, cross dressing, boobs that are too big and why Britons cannot get enough of this.
Scroll to 1:21:30 (1 hr, 21 mins, 30 sec) for my item

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Latest radio 1 show

http://player.omroep.nl/?aflID=10336030 my radio 1 show in Holland, last Thursday.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

A false French bet

Following pressure from the European Union and private operators, France has proposed a new gambling law, presenting it as a historic proposition that will open up the French gambling market for the first time in history. 

The bill should put an end to the state monopoly of two operators, PMU and Française des Jeux. French officials claim the new law will meet European Union demands for liberalisation and will fully open up its market, which is worth an estimated five to six billion Euros a year.

The UK-based Remote Gambling Association (RGA) said in a statement that ‘the French bill will fail to achieve any of its stated objectives’. It is a safe bet to say the RGA is right. Under the new bill, operators need a licence and can only obtain one if they close down their accounts for six months. This basically means giving away your customers to the French monopolists or competitors. Even if such a drastic move is made, another clause forbids applicants to have a sister or daughter company in an offshore tax haven. Ladbrokes and William Hill’s move to Gibraltar still fresh in mind, which self-respecting online gambling business does not have one? It is unlikely anything will change. Only if the Senate removes these clauses and if France softens its approach, the market can truly open up.


Thursday, 5 November 2009

Latest Radio 1 show (in Dutch)

My latest BNN Radio 1 show in Holland. Scroll to 0:22 (22 mins) for my item about drugs abuse and policy in the UK.

http://player.omroep.nl/?aflID=10273615

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

50 jobs in 50 states in 50 weeks

Everyone who thinks it is a tough time out there, with more people being made redundant than finding new jobs, will be inspired by the story of Dan Seddiqui.  

The former financial analyst was unable to get a job and when he did not even have a place to call home anymore, he was sent to therapy by his parents to help him prepare properly for the job hunt.  

Dan was so encouraged by his sessions he wanted to prove there are plenty of jobs out there. Perhaps his therapist was a bit too good value for money: Dan decided he wanted to try as many jobs as possible in one year. In 50 weeks he worked in all 50 American states and tried everything from being surf instructor (Hawaii), photographer (Alaska), wedding planner (Nevada), weatherman (Ohio) as well as a real estate agent (Idaho). 

In Illinois he worked as a ticket agent, in Oregon as a logging logger and in California he was a cellar master. Now he has announced he is going to write a book and publishers are queuing up for the rights. His book, titled ‘Living the Map’, will be published at the end of the year. Dan said he did find his dream job, being a dietician, a job that he did for a week whilst in Mississippi.  

www.livingthemap.com

Monday, 2 November 2009

Latest radio 1 show

My latest radio 1 show in Holland, about the British paparazzi, Amy Winehouse and the new documentary StarSuckers.

Scroll to 0:35 (35 mins) for my item.

http://player.omroep.nl/?aflID=10254177

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Roller skating babies becomes YouTube sensation

A few weeks ago someone sent me a cute video of a bunch of babies rollerskating around New York City’s Central Park. Now it turns out the dancing babies have become a You Tube sensation after more than 11,5 million people watched the video within the last two months. That is almost 200.000 people a day, 8500 people every hour!

"It's one of the cutest things I've ever seen," one YouTube viewer comments. Reviewer Saul Relative says, "You'll find yourself watching this feel good video commercial again and again."
The international advertisement for the French Evian mineral water, featuring roller-skating babies to a remix of the Sugarhill Gang’s song Rapper’s Delight, is one of the biggest hits in the advertisement industry in recent times.

Euro RSCG, responsible for the campaign, launched the web video advertisement early July and the ad has been aired on television in France, Belgium and Canada. According to Evian’s website there are plans to bring the roller-skating babies to the US and UK television screens later this year.

Curious? Check it out on You Tube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQcVllWpwGs

Alleged ghost hunt in Toronto ends in death

A Canadion woman fell to her dead when she was hunting ghosts on the roof of a University of Toronto building.
29-year old Leah Kubik was exploring the university building with a friend around 2 am on September 16. She fell to her death after she tried to jump from one section of the building to the next. She missed and made a three-story fall. Although she was taken to a local hospital, she was pronounced dead upon arrival. According to the Toronto Star, the pair had been drinking heavily and when they were walking home they decided to go ‘ghost hunting’. The building was built in 1874 and used by Know College until the university bought the property 37 years ago.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Latest radio 1 item

My latest radio show in Holland, scroll to 1:23 (1 hour and 23 minutes) for my item
http://player.omroep.nl/?aflID=10193103

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Woman in coma gives birth to baby boy

A miracle has happened in Germany. For the first time in living memory a woman who had been in a coma for the last 22 weeks of her pregnancy has given birth to a healthy baby.

The 40-year old woman, who fell pregnant before she suffered a heart attack that left her comatose, gave birth to a boy in a German hospital last year. "Given the mother's age and the completely normal state of the child, this case is extraordinary in the scientific world and very pleasing," Matthias Beckmann from the University Clinic in the southern German city of Erlangen said on Wednesday in the British newspaper Metro. The baby is now 18 months old. Beckmann: "We wanted to keep the spectacular case secret for as long as possible to demonstrate that we're not experimenting on people and that the child is still healthy." Less than 25 cases of women who are brain death or in a coma have been known since the 1970s. All of them ended in miscarriages or deformed babies. It is most likely the boy will grow up without a mother though. Doctors have said they have "almost no hope" for the mother. More bad news came for the child when he was placed in a home, after his father decided he was unable to care for him as he had to travel often for his job.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Driver fined after following GPS to edge of cliff in England

A driver in the United Kingdom has been fined after he followed the directions given by its satellite navigation system, leading him to the edge of a huge cliff drop in Yorkshire, Northern England.

In March 2009 Robert Jones was driving his BMW as he was trying to get home to Doncaster, in South Yorkshire. Since he did not know the route he followed his GPS system. Despite being directed onto a narrow dirt track which can hardly be called a road he continued following the information by his TomTom. Jones became so distracted by his GPS he struck a fence on the edge of a 30 meter cliff. The battery of his phone had died, so he got out and walked to a village nearby for help.

Yesterday, 43-year old Robert Jones represented himself in Calderdale Magistrates Court. He was prosecuted for driving without due care and attention because ‘he followed his TomTom so much it led him up path which was clearly not designed for the use of cars, although he continued to follow the directions of his GPS.’ Mr Jones was fined £370 and got six points on his licence.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Today is the 57th anniversary of the first patent on the bar code. Inventors Norman Woodland and Bernard Silver filed the patent in October 1949 in the US, and it was granted on October 7, 1952. The original patent was for a system that would encode data in circles (a bulls eye pattern), so that it could be scanned in any direction.

Woman survives being run over by a train

Shocking CCTV images stunned Israel earlier this year, when a 56-year old woman ended up in hospital after attempting to commit suicide by throwing herself in front of a high-speed passenger train, and miraculously survived.

Security camera’s caught the whole incident. You can see on the video that the woman walks onto the train tracks in the Israeli city of Beit Yehoshua as a bystander and possibly a railroad worker watch her lie down. Seconds later, a train passes by and presumably running her over. Howver, after the train passed, the woman got up, brushed herself off, walked back to her car and drove away.

The woman was tracked down by local authorities and brought to a local hospital for treatment. As a miracle, she only suffered minor injuries to her head. She later said to local media she wanted to end her life after losing her job as a travel agent. Watch the video here yourself:

Monday, 5 October 2009

A small town in the world's biggest nation

A Chinese group of small people (‘dwarfs’) got so sick and tired of the bullying and teasing they decided to set up their own village.

To escape discrimination from ‘normal sized’ people, the dwarfs in the Kunming area of Southern China decided to move away from their towns and villages to a place where they will all be treated equally. They found themselves a mountain area and turned it into a tourist attraction by building mushroom houses and living and dressing like fairy tale characters. There are now approximately 120 residents and they have banned anyone who is taller than 4’ft 3’’. They set up their own police and fire service. The only question which remains is why would people move away from society for being cruel to them and then ultimately invite them up to view them as a tourist attraction?


Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Assumed rapist files charges against victim for not disclosing her HIV infection

The Helsingborgs Dagblad, a local Swedish daily, reported recently that a man who is accused of sexually assaulting a young woman has pressed charges against the woman, for not disclosing she had HIV while he attacked her.

In August 2009 the man and woman took a taxi together in the Swedish town of Helsingborg. He told her she should come up to his flat so he could give her money for the taxi fare. When she arrived upstairs, the man forced her to have intercourse and participate in several sexual activities. She told police she begged him to use a condom, but without success. When she creamed at him she had young children waiting at home, he let her go, according to police records.

The man claimed he believed she was a prostitute and had paid her 3500 Swedish krona (around £315 or $480). He told police the reason she pressed charges against him was that she wanted to save herself. From what is not very clear. Perhaps the fear of being labelled a prostitute? It is not confirmed whether the man has been infected.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Early Christmas for residents of Rochdale

Do not be surprised if you see Santa Claus sometime this month in Rochdale, a suburb just outside Manchester. The local council has begun decorating the city centre for a series of activities, and this year it was decided, in order to save money, the town is also erecting Christmas decorations earlier than normal.

A giant Noel (Christmas) sign, a skiing penguin, images of Santa and holly leaves are among the decorations. Some residents thought the decision was ridiculous; Autumn has not even started properly and the town turns into one big Christmas ornament.

The local newspaper, The Rochdale Observer, spoke to a few residents. "Seeing the lights makes me feel depressed," said one. Another commented, "Absurd. It's the end of summer and they're putting up Christmas lights!" A spokeswoman for the Rochdale borough council responded: "We are merely putting them up and not switching them on. By putting them up now, we will be saving around £10,000".

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Richmond police remove valuables from unlocked cars

The police in the London borough of Richmond have started removing valuable items from unlocked cars and leaving notes letting the owners know where they can collect their items.

Items like handbags and laptops will be removed and brought to the police station in Twickenham, also in south-west London, where owners can claim their possessions. By doing this the local police wants to encourage people to lock their vehicles and more importantly, to remove valuable items out of sight.

Last year, 1300 in-car thefts or ‘smash and grab’ attacks were reported in Richmond. 1/5 of these cases involved satellite navigation systems. Since July the figures have gone up by nearly 40% so the police decided it was time for swift action. If there are no items on display but the vehicle is unlocked the owner will receive a letter telling them to be more careful.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Johanna's final destination was not on board Air France flight 447

It could be the script of the first ‘Final Destination’ movie, but this time there were no cameras running. Austrian Johanna Ganthaler was on holiday in Brazil when she and her husband Kurt missed their Air France flight in June, the plane that was supposed to take them back to Europe.

Frustrated and angry with Air France staff when the plane took off without them, they were forced to extend their stay in Brazil and wait for the next flight. Their frustration, however, turned to grateful amazement, when their initial flight was Air France Flight 447, which crashed in the middle of the Atlantic, killing all 228 people on board, including a British schoolboy and a large number of Brazilian and French families.

Johanna and Kurt took another flight and arrived safely back on European soil, but they were not home yet. Was it fate, what happened next?

They were driving home in Austria when their car veered off the road into an oncoming truck. While Kurt was seriously injured, Johanna was killed instantly in the collision. It is not clear why they lost control of their vehicle.

Meanwhile, despite having disappeared from the headlines, the search for the black boxes on board of flight 447 continues. A nuclear submarine has been sent to detect the boxes on the bottom of the Atlantic. Time is of the essence, since the pings from the data recorders will stop sending out signals next month.
39 bodies have been recovered so far from the crash site. Authorities hope to use DNA and dental records to identify the corpses.

Johanna’s body was not hard to identify, but her fate was not less doomed. Less than 24 hours after she had missed the ill-fated flight and undoubtedly breathed more than just a sigh of relief, she died. It's the kind of story that makes you wonder about the nature of fate.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Cycling through 35 countries on just $2? It is possible


This week Keiichi Iwasaki finished a tour around the world, on his bike. The 36-year-old Japanese tourist has spent 8 years on his bike, cycling more than 45,000 km across 35 countries. And all with just the equivalent of $2 in his wallet.

Iwasaki headed out for a short cycle tour in 2001, in his home country Japan. He enjoyed it so much he decided to postpone his return home and took a ride on a ferry to South Korea.
His journey was not without problems. In Tibet he was attacked by a rabid dog, he escaped marriage in Nepal, got arrested in India and he was robbed by pirates.

Some of the countries he crossed during his trip around the world include China, Cambodia, Singapore, Pakistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, Netherlands, France, England, Spain, Portugal and Switzerland.

Friday, 11 September 2009

the burqa in the UK

My latest radio 1 show about the burqa, in Dutch. Scroll to 1:23 (1 hour and 23 minutes)

http://player.omroep.nl/?aflID=10066903

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Live from London

'Manchester school massacre'.

My latest radio 1 show in Holland, September 3. Scroll to 1:16 (1 hour and 16 minutes) for my item
http://player.omroep.nl/?aflID=10047457

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Latest radio 1 show

My latest radio 1 show in Holland, September 1. Scroll to 1:21 (1 hour and 21 minutes) for my item.

http://player.omroep.nl/?aflID=10047415

Friday, 28 August 2009

British teenager sails into history

A British teenager has become the youngest person ever to sail round the world after reaching the coast of Cornwall yesterday.
17 year old Mike Perham arrived at the finish in Cornwall, southern England, after completing 45.000 kilometers on seas and oceans. His fifty foot yacht took him via Portugal, the Canaries, South-Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Panama back to England.
Perham, originally from Hertfordshire, already holds the record for being the youngest person to sail across the Atlantic at just 14, when his father sailed next to him in a seperate boat. He needed to be home by the end of October to beat American rival Zac Sunderland's round-the-world record. The teenager has tackled 50 foot waves and gale force winds during his 45.000 km voyage. Earlier this year on March 16, he celebrated his 17th birthday in the South Indian Ocean.
He told Sky News: "There have been scary moments. You do ask yourself why on Earth you're doing it because you get put in these dangerous situations. But when you get out of them you think 'wow, incredible'. "I'm at one with nature and it's just me thousands of miles away from any help."

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Microsoft causes racism row over Polish photo choice

Microsoft was forced to apologise for the choice to change a black face to that of a white man. The picture shows smiling employees sitting around a desk and appeared with a black man in the middle on the US website of the software giant.
The Polish website, however, shows a picture where the black man's head was replaced with a white face. Web editors apparently forgot his hands, since they were unchanged.
Microsoft removed the picture from its website yesterday and said in a statement "it would be investigating who made the changes". Many bloggers jokingly suggested Microsoft was attempting to please all markets by having a man with both a white face and a black hand. But the more likely reason why the black man's face was replaced should be sought in the marketing department of Microsoft Poland, who probably found a white man more suitable for the ethnic mix of the Polish population. 98% is white and catholic in Poland.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Angela Merkel's revealing neckline promises Germany the CDU 'has more to offer'

German elections are bound to become everything but dull this year. A local candidate in the Berlin district, from Angela Merkel’s CDU party, has spiced up her campaign with an election poster, featuring a picture of the German chancellor in a revealing top. The slogan speaks for itself: “Wir Haben Mehr Zu Bieten” translates as “We have more to offer.”

Europe’s biggest nation will head to the polls in less than two months and fierce campaigning around the country has begun. Vera Lengsfeld, the CDU candidate for the Berlin district of Kreuzberg.
Splashed around the chancellor’s breasts, Vera Lengsfield PR team printed the slogan “We have more to offer”, placing herself next to the German leader. She too is wearing an evening gown with a revealing neckline. The photo of Merkel was taken during the 2008 opening of Oslo’s new opera house, in Norway. It made the rounds in the German media last year (right).

The 57-year old Lengsfled said she “needed to come up with something to even be noticed in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg.” The reason for this is she is running against Hans-Christian Stroebele, who has twice won the only directly mandated seat for the Greens.

She has clearly achieved her goal. Lengsfled has 20.000 clicks in one day on her election blog and she hung 750 posters in her district, although many have been stolen, according to the German channel ZDF, “because constituents want to have a souvenir.”

The reactions were divided. Some described the poster as “witty, cheeky and fun,” while others rejected it and dismissed it as “shameful and embarrassing.”

One person who will not be amused by Lengsfeld’s action will be the chancellor herself. Lengsfeld has not asked for permission nor did she notify the chancellor’s office in advance. That same office has so far declined to comment.

Another sign sex is returning to German politics is the poster of a centre-left socialist democrat. Candidate Halina Wawzyniak’s poster shows her bare back with the tattoo “Socialist,” and a slogan that reads “Mit Arsch in der Hose in den Bundestag”, a colloquialism that literally means “With trousers full of arse in the Bundestag,” a reference to plucky politics.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Unarmed suspect killed by Indian police in broad daylight

SHAME ON YOU, INDIAN POLICE
I received these pictures today from a journalist in New Delhi. It is at a market in the north-eastern India city of Imphal, close to the border with Burma/Myanmar. The police arrested someone (it’s not clear why), they bring him from the market building to a pharmacy (photo 1), follow the arrow. He does not seem to resist, nor to try to escape, nor to be armed or attempting to fight the police (photo 2). He calmly follows a police officers who suddenly seems to pull out a gun (photo 3).
Then he is surrounded by officers (photo 4 and 5) to hide the view for the public and one of the officers shoots him (photo 6). In photo 7 he is being carried away and has clearly died. Photo 8 shows him being laid down on a truck and in photo 9 his death body can be seen.
The police declared later they had to shoot him, because he was armed and on the run. The police declared he 'was extremely dangerous and had shot at officers and civilians'. These pictures clearly show this was not the case. Unlawful killings by the police are uncommon in India, but it rarely happens they are caught on camera.


picture 1


picture 2

picture 3


picture 4
picture 5

picture 6
picture 7

picture 8

picture 9
My friend works for the Indian publication Tehelka Magazine (based in New Delhi) and these pictures are published on their website

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Exit Holland: Radio 1

Since a month I am a weekly reporter for the Dutch radio station Radio 1. It is the biggest news- and sports channel in Holland and Flanders with approximately a million listeners every day. Every Monday or Tuesday I inform Dutch listeners in the 'Exit Holland' section about news, current affairs, recent developments and funny events in the United Kingdom, where I am based. My latest show, last Monday (July 27) can be listened to by clicking on the link. Scroll to 32:20 (32 mins and 20 sec). Keep in mind, naturally, that the show is in Dutch.

http://player.omroep.nl/?aflID=10004266

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

It's hot hot hot

Who said English summers are never good? The Met Office has raised its heatwave alert level today. Hot and humid conditions look set to continue until Friday.

London and the South East are now on Level 3 (out of four), with temperatures set to reach at least 33C (90 F).

The Department of Health has issued special advice for the elderly and other people at risk from the heat, such as people with a heart disease or very young children.

(bbc.co.uk, Skynews.co.uk)

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Just 'Koogle' it !

Orthodox Jews in Israel have come up with something new to protect their children against sexual images, TV and other orthodox Jewish taboos. A new “kosher” search has been launched called ‘Koogle’.
It gives them the possibility to surf the web without bring them to uncompromising websites. The religious community has been struggling lately with how to deal with search engines such as Google, AltaVista or Yahoo. Rabbis have encourages the development of Koogle so the community has no problems meeting religious standards. The name Koogle comes from the engine Google and a popular Jewish noodle dish. It filters forbidden material, such as pictures of women dressed immodestly or sexually explicit images.
Amos Azizoff helped setting up Koogle: ‘The website is for adults as well as children,’ he says: ‘You can find anything, from the local cinema to bridal wear.’ The site has been visited more than 100.000 times in the last month alone. Azizoff continues: ‘There is so much happening on the internet that isn't healthy and this search engine allows people to surf without pop-ups or anything that is inappropriate.’
And the search engine has more options. During the Jewish Sabbath, which begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday, it is not possible to shop online. Azizoff admits the site will not appeal to everyone: "We have to be realistic. Just as you have orthodox Christians and orthodox Muslims, there are people who like to take the easy approach on life, right or wrong, that does not matter. But there are different needs for different communities." Although the main website is in Hebrew (www.koogle.co.il), there is an English version too: www.koogle.co.il/English

Thursday, 11 June 2009

In the name of the father

Thousands of people marched through Dublin in silence yesterday. The conservative European nation stood still to remember decades of child abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.

The publication of a government report last month, the Ryan report, exposed stories of rape and beatings by nuns and brothers in more than 216 Catholic-run residential institutions. Over four hundred thousand children stayed for a short or longer period of time in monasteries, care homes and orphanages and many of them turned out to be abused, molested, humiliated, raped or beaten. An official inquiry last month, led by the respected judge Sean Ryan, reported that sexual, physical and emotional abuse had been ‘endemic’ in religious, reform and industrial schools, dating back to the 1920’s.

The silent march, organised by Survivors of Institutional Abuse Ireland, highlighted the fact the Catholic Church in Ireland, and the government, have always kept silent and it still is a very sensitive issue many Irish rather not talk about. The more than 7000 who did come out to central Dublin wore white ribbons and carried children’s shoes to represent the loss of childhood. They delivered a petition to representatives of some of the religious institutions and orders mentioned in the report: “We, the people of Ireland, join in solidarity and call for justice, accountability, restitution and repatriation of the unimaginable crimes committed against the children of our country by religious orders in 216 institutions.”
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said he was unable to attend, because he was attending the Catholic bishop’s general meeting. He sent a representative.

After the meeting, it was clear the bishops had discussed the report because they released the statement: "Heinous crimes were perpetrated against the most innocent and vulnerable, and vile acts with life-lasting effects were carried out under the guise of the mission of Jesus Christ. This abuse represents a serious betrayal of the trust which was placed in the church. For this we ask forgiveness." Earlier this week Archbishop Martin said he had briefed the Pope and the Holy Father had been "visibly upset".
The Vatican has the world's lowest age of consent
Although the Ryan report contained hundreds of witness reports, mentioned nuns, brothers and other religious workers by name and rank and the document describes many abuse cases in detail, no one has been arrested.
Not surprisingly perhaps, since the Vatican City (together with paedophilia holiday hit the Philippines) has the world's lowest age of consent: Art 331 of Vatican roman law states the age of consent is - don't be shocked now - 12. While the Vatican usually adopts Italian laws automatically, the age of consent in neighbouring Italy is 14.
The Vatican lawmaker must somehow along the way have been convinced a 12 year old boy is mature enough and in such an equal position to make the rational decision he voluntarily wants to sleep with a 63 year old bishop. No need for confession, no sins under God's roof.
It all happened in the name of the Holy Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Fearless Vietnam photographer Van Es dies in Hong Kong (67)

Hubert Van Es, the Dutch photographer who became world famous when he covered the Vietnam War, died in Hong Kong, aged 67.
He took took one of the best known images of the evacuation of Saigon in 1975, led by the Americans. His picture — people scaling a ladder to a helicopter on a rooftop (above) — made all the major newspapers in the world. On behalf of his wife Annie Van Es, the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Hong Kong announced his death on Friday. He fell into a coma a week earlier after suffering a brain aneurysm. He passed away in Hong Kong's Queen Mary Hospital on Friday.

In 1975, as the North Vietnamese army was approaching Saigon, Van Es photographed the thousands of US military personnel and Vietnamese civilians trying to flee the country. Mr Van Es was in the office of United Press on 29 April, 1975, when he saw around 40 Americans climbing a long ladder to board a CIA helicopter, on a rooftop of an apartment building a few blocks away. The helicopter was clearly too small too carry them all.
Thousands of people were evacuated during the fall of Saigon, also known as Ho Chi Minh City. The building in Van Es' picture housed CIA officials and their families. Without realising it at the time, the photo became one of the Vietnam war's defining images and came to be seen as a symbol of the failure of US policy in the war. He gained a reputation for fearlessness. Van Es later expressed his disappointment that he never received royalties from the use of the photo. Since he worked for the UPI, they owned the picture. The photo is currently in the possession of Bill Gates, through one of his daughter companies, Corbis. Van Es was born in Hilversum, the Netherlands. He headed to Hong Kong in 1967, working as a freelancer and he later became The South China Morning Post's chief photographer. He was sent to Vietnam a year later, after getting a job as a sound man for NBC News, according to the New York Times. In Saigon, he joined the Associated Press photo team in 1969 and changed to UPI in 1972, where he covered the last three years of the war. After the Vietnam war was over, he worked as a freelancer again and settled in Hong Kong. He went to the Philippines to cover the Moro rebellion and also worked on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Mr Van Es is survived by his wife for 39 years, Annie, and an older sister, who still lives in the Netherlands.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Record fine for computer chipmaker Intel

The European Commissioner for anti-competitive practices, the Dutch lady Nelie Kroes, has announced US chipmaker Intel has been fined a record 1.07 billion Euros, equivalent to $1.45 billion or £ 950 million.

In 2000 rival company Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) filed a complaint in Brussels stating ‘that Intel had paid computer manufacturers not to use AMD chips in computers sold in Europe.

Eight years of investigation convinced the European Commission that Intel had given hidden discounts and financial favours to computer manufacturers if they only used Intel chips. Retailers were paid money so they would only sell computers with an Intel chip. ‘Nickel Neelie’ Kroes, who has a reputation in Brussels to be fair but ruthless, said in a statement: “Intel has harmed millions of European consumers by deliberately acting to keep competitors out of the market for computer chips for many years. Such a serious and sustained violation of the EU’s antirust rules can not be tolerated.

The mega fine dwarfs the 500 million Euros Microsoft was forced to pay in 2004, when the Commission ruled it had abused its dominant market position.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

‘Pakistan about to collapse’, according to US General David Petraeus

President Zardari (‘mister 10%’) should worry. A lot. According to the US General David Petraeus there may be just two weeks left before the Taliban might be able to overthrow the Pakistani government.

Last month, Taliban militants advanced to within 60 miles of the country’s capital, Islamabad, and were forced to withdraw only after the US pressured the Pakistan government to launch a counter-attack. It is said that senior officials in Obama’s administration have more confidence in Pakistan’s army, led by General Ashfaq Kayani, than the current President, Asif Ali Zardari, who earned the nickname ‘mister 10%’ during the 1990’s for accepting enormous bribes and large sums of money while his wife, the late Benazir Bhutto, was the prime minister of Pakistan.
Last week, Hillary Clinton publicly accused Islamabad of “abdicating to the Taliban”. Tomorrow, the Pakistani president will meet the US president and the Afghan leader Hamid Karazi in Washington. It is unavoidable the issue will be discussed there.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Alien in Qatar?

A group of shoppers in Qatar, in the Middle East, got the shock of their lives when they spotted a creature which was branded a possible alien, it was reported last night.

A mysterious figure resembling a human being was sighted on the Doha Corniche's parking lot, according to local Arab newspapers. One woman, an Arab expatriate lady who said the had seen the strange figure near the Oryx statue, managed to grab her phone and take a picture, despite being terribly frightened. The results can be found above. The woman was surrounded by a large number of people who confirmed her story and also saw what she saw. A few seconds after the mother of three took the photo the creature took off and disappeared. Qatar police have started an investigation but without any results yet. Was it an alien? Animal? Hoax?
(www.telegraaf.nl, www.theeldergeek.com)

Monday, 27 April 2009

Drunk Obama and Putin won't be seen in Amsterdam(ned)

The organisers of the campaign 'I Amsterdam' came up with a couple of remarkable posters to promote the celebration of Queensday, every year at April 30th in the Netherlands (to celebrate the birthday of the Queen the whole country has a day off, dresses up in Orange and goes out to party).

Obama and Putin are on the poster wearing a t-shirt saying “kiss me, I am drunk“. It is remarkable this particular poster has been withdrawn, because no one has complained. Both the US and Russian embassies in The Hague did not release a statement or did not complaint to the Dutch government or Amsterdam council. The official reason is said to be the fact that Putin does not drink any alcohol and it could be 'highly insulting to someone who does not drink alcohol.'

This makes you wonder since when the feelings of a former KGB agent and ruler with an iron fist prevail over the freedom of press and opinion. Especially when you take into account that a poster featuring the French president, however, has not been withdrawn while the French embassy complained about a poster with Sarkozy's image on it. The French president is shown hugging his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi. The embassy has demanded to stop the campaign immediately, but it was decided to ignore the complaints and release the posters anyway. Hillary Clinton can also be seen on one of the posters, with her hands in the air, celebrating the birthday of Queen Beatrix.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Getting drunk without drinking

A new pub in central London does not ask its customers to drink responsibly, but to breathe responsibly. When you enter the cocktail bar customers are literally enveloped in a mist of alcohol, an intoxicating spray of gin and tonic.

After around an hour inside, most customers feel cheerful and tipsy. To avoid smelling like a bottle of gin on your way home, and to protect your clothes, visitors are advised to wear special protective suits inside. The bar, which has place for around 35 customers, is decorated with huge limes and enormous straws to give you the feeling you are actually inside the drink itself. Instead of rock or pop music, a noise of liquid being poured over ice cubes can be heard.
The idea for this new bar came from Harry Parr and Sam Bompas. In Metro newspaper Bompas said: 'It's something we have always wanted to do. If you think of what you do in a bar you might spend 40 minutes per drink, so we've calibrated the mixology to account for that much.' Mr Parr adds: 'Here we've vaporised a cocktail. In the future I would like to make a liquid banqueting table.'

The Alcoholic Architecture Bar is based in Ganton Street (Newburgh Quarter), central London. Its opening hours are limited, between 7 pm and 9 pm and only on selected dates until April 25. Tickets are £5 and customers must be 21 or older. Visit www.jellymongers.co.uk for more information and tickets.
(metro.co.uk April 21)

Monday, 20 April 2009

Indians to the polls

The world's largest democracy has started voting. Around 720 million Indians will go to the polls in an election that will take place in five phases. While the first round has already ended, millions will have to wait for their turn until the the beginning or second week of May. 124 constituencies are being contested during the month-long general elections.

The final results are expected on 16 May and a new parliament must be in place by 2 June. The current coalition government, led by the Congress-party and prime minister Singh, is facing one of the biggest challenges in its history, mainly from the opposition BJP-led alliance. Surprisingly, the two main parties are also competing against a "third bloc", mainly consisting of the communist and some regional parties. For now, it is too close to call.
(BBC/CNN, pics: BBC Website)

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

'Dirty French' violently attacked on central Paris night bus

These CCTV images shocked public opinion in France last week. A seven minute video of four youths, smoking and acting aggressive, shows them robbing and badly beating up a 19 year old student in the north of central Paris.
The victim can easily be identified as the young, blond man with the Burberry scarf. Passengers who tried to intervene were also punched and beaten. The CCTV images, shot last December, were put online by an unnamed police officer, and – of course – circulated in no time within the French press. It was announced the police officer who put the images online will be charged for releasing the video, which is a hit among far-right French voters. They see it as proof of how violent and aggressive the kids from the suburbs are, the so-called ‘Banlieus’. At some point you can hear the non-white attackers scream at their Victim ‘Sale francais’, which means ‘dirty Frenchman’.
Although the police said two of the youths were arrested on the spot after the bus driver alerted the police, the RATP Transport Authority said in a statement that ‘its bus drivers have strict orders not to intervene in defence of passengers but to stay at the wheel and press a silent alarm button.’ Many RATP drivers are scared and one was quoted as saying in the French newspaper Le Parisien: "If you do not have money for a taxi on a Saturday night, it's better to stay in the disco and wait for the morning."

If you want to see the video, please click here (warning: it contains violence and might be disturbing to some)

If you are interested in an interview with the victim, the 19-year old student who does not want to be named, please click here: http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/3875

(http://www.lefigaro.fr, http://www.eurosoc.com, http://www.timesonline.com, www.detijd.be, www.telegraaf.nl)

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Obama, Brown, Medvedev, Sarkozy, Merkel and other leaders in London for G20 Summit



While the American leader Barack Obama and UK’s prime minster Gordon Brown met in Downing Street ahead of the G20 summit, thousands of protestors gathered in the City of London last Wednesday.

Anti-capitalists, anarchists and climate change activists assembled in London’s financial heart on Wednesday morning. A few minor scuffles broke out as they plead for changes in the economic and financial systems. Some windows were broken at a local branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland and a small group of protestors managed to get on to the roof of the central bank, The Bank of England. According to Scotland Yard 23 people were arrested. The 7.5 million security operation compromised of 6 police forces and any leave during the two-day summit had been withdrawn.

Obama (US), Berlusconi (Italy) and Medvedev (Russia)

pics: Huffington post, BBC

Monday, 30 March 2009

Smith's husband claims porn costs

The political future of Labour heavyweight Jacqui Smith, Britain’s home secretary, is in doubt after her husband Richard Timney has claimed the costs of two porn movies from her expenses budget.

Smith was said to be ‘mortified and furious’ when she found out that her claims included two adult movies. Her husband Richard admitted watching the videos on April 1 and 7, 2008.

Effectively, British taxpayers funded Mr Timney’s desire to watch porn. Speaking to the press outside their constituency home in Redditch (Worcestershire, UK), Richard Timney said yesterday: “I am really sorry for any embarrassment I have caused Jacqui. I can fully understand why people might be angry and offended by this. Quite obviously, a claim should never have been made for these films and, as you know, the money has been paid back.”

David Davis, the former Shadow Home Secretary, said: “I didn’t even know films were that expensive . . . claiming for porn movies? I just can’t believe it.”
(guardian.co.uk, timesonline.co.uk, newsteam.co.uk)

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Chicago's Green River

Chicago is famous for many things; Oprah, the Sears Tower, blues, Obama, The Chicago Theatre, for being 'The Windy City', Jerry Springer, its Hilton Hotel and not to forget a spectacular annual event: dyeing the Chicago River green. The tradition started more than forty seven years ago, when pollution-control workers used dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges and noticed that the green materials used could be the basis for a unique way to celebrate the start of the St Patrick's holiday. In 1962, city workers released more than 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into 'Chicago river' (it is not hard to guess where it got its name from). It turned out to be more than enough to keep the river coloured for a week! These days, the city council tries to minimize environmental damage, so only forty pounds of dye are used, making the river green for just a couple of hours. Last Saturday, March 14, thousands of people headed over to the river banks to see the green spectacle, which is the start of the St. Patrick's festivities.
http://www.history.com/, www.trouw.nl, http://farm1.static.flickr.com/

Monday, 16 March 2009

'The bookies': making a living out of hope

If you live in the UK, you can not miss them. Their typical white and yellow logo can be found in any major city and town throughout England. No High Street seems to be complete without having one; the William Hill betting shops have become an integral part of modern British society. After all, isn't money won twice as sweet as money earned?

Last week, I headed over to north London. Right outside my Camden flat there is a direct bus, the 29, which brings me – via Caledonian Road, Holloway, Finsbury Park, Manor House and Turnpike Lane – all the way to the northern borough of Wood Green. A forty five minutes ride and good fun actually, since I like to go to areas I normally hardly come, even though you cross some pretty dodgy London areas. Especially Holloway, Finsbury Park and Manor House are known for their late night police visits and the sound of an ambulance seems to be an integral part of the neighborhoods’ life. What is also a vital part of many people’s lives here are the betting offices; it is where William Hill is doing big business. Here in the capital, they seem to have found fertile ground in especially the more deprived and rundown parts of London, according to the Independent (March 23, 2008)

In my opinion, most of the company’s revenue, over £1 billion in 2008, seems to be made in areas like these. Many underprivileged can not get enough of the horse racing, gambling, golf, football and bookmaking ever since the company was set up by William Hill in 1934. Steadily the business grew to one of the country’s biggest bookmakers with branches in the UK, Ireland and Spain. A respectable achievement, and they always operated within the boundaries of the law. It bought 624 new betting offices in 2005; the acquisition took the company past Ladbrokes into first position in the UK betting market, with an annual profit of more than £150 million in 2008. CEO Ralph Topping – who took a Saturday job in Glasgow in 1973 and worked his way up – has many scheduled projects for the near future. He plans to expand the online betting business so people from all over the world can place a ‘bet-by-clicking’. Employing more than 14,600 people and with an average of 899,000 bets a day William Hill seems to be the model example of a successful company. But then I ask myself, do I agree with the American journalist Heywood Campbell Broun (1888-1939), who said 'the urge to gamble is so universal and its practice is so pleasurable, it must be evil'?

Because while I am passing these areas, it makes me wonder, how do they make their money and – even more importantly – out of whom? Didn't Arthur S. Reber once say in The New Gambler's Bible 'In every bet there is a fool and a thief'? I always believe luck never gives; it only lends, so it is here is where I become reluctant. Several publications, including a London School of Economics research report, have indicated that it is mainly the disadvantaged, the poor and uneducated, who fill William Hill’s, Ladbrokes', Coral's and all the other pockets. Is it true, like some former gambling addicts claim, that most betting offices seem to have developed a culture which is concentrated on squeezing the last penny out of their customers to generate maximum income? It is too early to say that, and one should not forget they are major private employers responsible for the economic well-being of many households, but the Independent and others seemed to have suggested the average William Hill visitor has had hardly any education and has often not a good idea how big – or slim – his chances of winning are. Or are just simply very young; an investigation by children's charity NCH concluded in July 2004 'children were able to gamble online.'

I believe the safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket, but for many it merely is a possibility to escape reality, even just for a minute. Because that seems to me to be part of the William Hill product; selling a ‘dream’. What if you suddenly win a million, a car, a pension? How life changing is that! Without any doubt William Hill, Ladbrokes and so on are the only shop in the area which sell such a dream ride; a way out of boredom, a ticket away from their run down, monotonous life. It is almost like we are in Slum Dog Millionaire.

Unfortunately, for most of us, that is an illusion. At first, casinos and bookmakers are like prostitutes; they are both trying to screw you out of your money and send you home with a smile on you face. Leaving you empty handed (VP Pappy). And for some it takes quite a while, if not forever, before they have realized this. There is little which can be done, since no one can accuse the bookmakers of breaking the law or ignoring regulations. Including me. Clearly the UK's Gambling Act of 2005 offers hardly any protection; no one forces anyone to place a bet or to spend thousands of pounds, if not even more. So if people walk in voluntarily it become quite difficult to force them to stop playing when they are on their way to bet away a small fortune, something they mostly do not even have. So what happened to the bookies' moral responsibility? When gambling has become an addiction or the last resort for people to make a fortune to pay off their huge debts, is that not the time for the bookmakers to step in and say 'no'? What if someone wants to open a new account, while he still owes WH thousands of pounds and it is not very likely he will be able to pay it back soon? Mostly not a problem.

A good example is Graham Calvert, a 28 year old greyhound trainer from Tyne and Wear, who became addicted to gambling and sued WH for continuing to take his bets and allowing him to lose more than £2 million on football, horse racing and golf. In 2008 he asked William Hill to bar him from their branches because of his compulsive habit. Over a period of 16 months, which started in the summer of 2005, he placed £7.5 million on the outcomes of sporting events, sometimes walking into the betting shop with bin liners filled with £100,000 in cash. He had been earning £30,000 a month and began betting £2,000 to £5,000 a time, regularly placing a single bet of £30,000, can be read in the London Times. After about a year, he started to recognize he was suffering from an addiction. In May 2006 he asked William Hill to ban him. However, later that summer he was able to open a new account and resume placing large bets. His biggest gamble was a £345,000 bet backing America to win the Ryder Cup. Unfortunately for Calvert, they lost. The result: his life in ruins. He owed William Hill an estimated £1.5 million and on top of that, his wife left him in 2008 with their two young children. No wife can endure a gambling husband, unless he is a steady winner. The case came just a few months after the mother of a mentally disabled man from Bournemouth, permitted to continue gambling after several local bookmakers had agreed to exclude him, called for gambling regulations to be tightened. Although her son Alex signed six-month self-exclusion agreements with a number of bookmakers in their area, he was subsequently allowed to gamble during the six-month period. It seems to illustrate just something: the only way to return from a casino with a small fortune, is to go there with a large one.

These examples raise questions about ‘responsible gambling’, as mentioned on William Hill’s website. Does the company stick to its own guidelines? On the website it mentions ‘one of the Gambling Act’s objectives are: to protect children and vulnerable people’. It is true I have not seen buses full of school children at the betting offices, but what about ‘vulnerable people’? There does not seem to be a clear definition about who these people are, and that is where it gets tricky. Morally you can argue whether or not a barman should serve someone a tequila shot when he is completely pissed and can barely walk; should a bookie allow someone to continue playing when he is running out of money, credit, steam and his healthy appetite for a bet turns into a horrible addiction? It makes you wonder, was Jeffrey Bernard right when he said: "why in most betting shops you will have nine or ten windows marked "Bet Here" but only one window with the legend "Pay Out."

Lawmakers, however, do believe very much in people’s own responsibility. Graham Calvert lost his case in March 2008. Judge Michael Briggs said: “William Hill has no legal responsibility to protect its customers from the consequences of their gambling.” So it is not possible to draw the conclusion William Hill breaks any laws or rules.

Just before I reached Wood Green, I passed by another bookmaker. A rundown, old building that could use some renovation. Just when I observed the place, the door opened and a guy came out. People always seem to adapt to their environment, as long as they stick around long enough. This guy illustrated that in every possible way. The non-shaved, untidy, long haired, overweight fifty something lit a cigarette and stared into the bus, at me. For a minute I started to feel uncomfortable and was about to wave at him when I realized; he did not even notice me. He was not looking at anything; he was just staring. It was obvious he had other things on his mind. How much did he lose today; how much will he lose tomorrow? And perhaps more importantly, where is he going to get some cash for his next bet? I wanted to get up, get out, scream at him that there is just one good throw upon the dice, which is, to throw them away. But I didn't, I just sat, looked and realised; whatever they make you believe, no dog or horse can go as fast as the money you bet on them.

Independent.co.uk, williamhill.co.uk, www.uk-book-makers.co.uk, www.quotegarden.com/gambling, www.pokerdoodle.com/0715.07.gambling_debt.gif, www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk, www.timesonline.co.uk

Thursday, 5 March 2009

India's latest drink: cow urine

Overheated Indians can cool down with a very original new drink soon: a soft drink made of cow urine.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist movement in India, is planning to launch a new drink at the end of this year. The bovine brew is said to be in the final stages of development, according to the project leader Om Prakash. He is the head of the Cow Protection Department of RSS, one of India’s biggest and oldest Hindu nationalist movements. The new drink will be called ‘Gau Jal’, or ‘cow water’. Prakash: “At the moment we are doing some laboratory tests and the plan is to launch the drink hopefully by the end of this year.” Will it smell and taste like urine? “No, not at all, and it will have a nice taste too,” says Om Prakash from their brewery in Hardwar, one of four holy cities on the River Ganges. “Any toxins will be removed from the cow urine and it won’t be like carbonated drinks. It is going to be very healthy.” Cows have a holy symbolic status in India. To slaughter or eat a cow in India is illegal in most parts of the country. For many years cow dung is used as a fuel and disinfectant.
The drink is the latest attempt by the RSS – which was founded in 1925 and now claims eight million members – to cleanse India of foreign influence and promote its ideology of Hindutva, or Hinduness. Hindus revere cows and slaughtering them is illegal in most of India. Cow dung is traditionally used as a fuel and disinfectant in villages, while cow urine and dung are often consumed in rituals to "purify" those on the bottom rungs of the Hindu caste system. In 2001, the RSS and its offshoots – which include the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party – began promoting cow urine as a cure for ailments ranging from liver disease to obesity and even cancer.
The movement has often been accused of using more violent methods, such as killing 67 Christians in the eastern state of Orissa last year, and assaulting women in a pub in Mangalore last month. It also has a history of targeting foreign business in India, as in 1994, when it organised a nationwide boycott of multinational consumer goods, including Pepsi and Coca Cola. The cola brands are popular in India, now one of their biggest markets, but have struggled in recent years to shake off allegations, which they deny, that they contain dangerous levels of pesticide. Mr Prakash said his drink, by contrast, was made mainly of cow urine, mixed with a few medicinal and ayurvedic herbs. He said it would be "cheap", but declined to give further details about its price or ingredients until it was officially launched. He insisted, however, that it would be able to compete with the American cola brands, even with their enormous advertising budgets. "We're going to give them good competition as our drink is good for mankind," he said. "We may also think of exporting it."

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Holocaust-denyer on his way to trial?

Richard Williamson, the Holocaust-denying bishop who had his excommunication lifted by the Pope has left Argentina after weeks of pressure. Last night he was seen boarding a British Airways flight in Buenos Aires, leaving for London.
At the airport he was followed by an Argentinean reporter and he shoved him into a pole with his shoulder as he hurried to catch the flight to London. With sunglasses and a black cab he more looked like an old rock, grumpy rock star than a respected bishop. See the images from the Argentinean television right here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeywYKwSqew
The Argentinean government issued a statement last week saying Williamson had ten days to leave Argentina voluntarily; otherwise he would be thrown out of the country. The reason was that – in the past – Williamson denied the holocaust ever took place, not more than 300.000 Jews have been killed during the Second World War and gas chambers could never have existed. Authorities in Buenos Aires added to their statement that they found Williamson’s “views on the Holocaust deeply offensive to Argentine society, the Jewish people and humanity."

Williamson is a traditionalist bishop who is a member of the ultra-conservative Society of St. Pius X. After the statement and under huge pressure, the Society of St Pius X sacked him as head of its seminary there. In Britain, Bishop Williamson could face an extradition attempt by prosecutors in Germany after he gave an interview there broadcast on Swedish television in which he said: "There were no gas chambers." You can find that interview here:www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6C9BuXe2RM

(Timesonline.co.uk, Guardian.co.uk, Skynews.co.uk, picture: Timesonline.co.uk)